Filmmaker Documents a Year of Saying Goodbye to His College-Bound Daughter
But instead of downloading those memories onto a DVD and watching them on a rainy day, in 2007 Block decided to take his home movies of his only daughter Lucy and turn it into a 90-minute documentary film called "The Kids Grow Up."
The heartfelt movie, which is currently playing in select theaters nationwide and will also air on HBO on Father's Day 2011, touches on subjects like depression, sex and how a father must come to grips with letting his only child go.
ParentDish caught up with Block and discovered how following Lucy, now 21, around with a camera in hand for years led to the father and daughter relationship they have today.
ParentDish: Was it always your intention to create a documentary about Lucy's life?
Doug Block: No. Lucy has the misfortune of not only being born when the camcorder was created, but to a dad who is a documentary filmmaker. There was no intention to document her life when I originally started filming her.
PD: When did you start filming Lucy's life?
DB: When she was 2 years old.
PD: How many hours a day and a week did you shoot Lucy?
DB: It was not every day, despite what you may think. I shot for maybe 10 minutes one day and then a few minutes more a month later.
PD: So when did you decide to make her life into a documentary?
DB: When I was able to figure out how to frame all of the footage I shot into a story, the film was born. Aside from learning all about Lucy and parenting, this movie also tells the story of how I learned how to let go.
PD: You touch upon many personal subjects in this film including your daughter having sex for the first time and your wife's [Marjorie A. Silver] bout with depression. Why go there?
DB: It was honest and it shows what families go through.
PD: And Lucy was OK with all of this?
DB: Lucy wasn't thrilled with me talking about how she and her former boyfriend Romain were sleeping together when she was only 17 years old. That scene where we talked about her having sex gave her trouble.
PD: Not surprising, huh?
DB: It was a surprise to me to learn how uncomfortable she was with it, since she was pretty open with us about Romain at the time. We talked about it at length when she first saw the scene and Lucy ultimately understood that the film is coming from my very distinct perspective as a father and the scene is being played for laughs. But even now, a good year or two later, she's not thrilled.
PD: Do you blame her?
DB: Lucy was more concerned about what her teachers or people she associates with might think of her having sex at 17 years old.
PD: And Romain?
DB: As for Romain, I only heard his reaction through Lucy and she said he likes the film. I don't think he had a problem with that scene at all. But then he's a boy. And a French one, at that.
PD: Did making this film ever make waves with Lucy?
DB: About a month before Lucy left for Pomona College in California, things got difficult. There was a day Lucy got really upset and was in tears. So much so, she wanted me to turn the camera off because she was just stressing out over leaving her home, leaving her friends and having to start over in a brand new surrounding. But overall Lucy was a good sport about the whole thing.
PD: How did you deal with her on-camera breakdown?
DB: That scene still haunts me to this day because instead of comforting her the filmmaker in me took over. I mean I knew there were moments that the camera irritated her. When you see your daughter in tears it is never a good feeling. I kept rolling because Lucy never told me [explicitly] to turn the camera off.
PD: What were the pros and cons of making this film with Lucy?
DB: The cons were always, 'How will this impact Lucy and is she really OK with it or doing it to please me?' The pro was I had never seen a film about the parenting privilege and I have this wonderful opportunity to show them what it is like.
PD: Did Lucy ever come to a point where she was like, "Dad, enough?"
DB: With the exception of that one day we just spoke about, no. If she did I would have stopped filming immediately. I even gave her the opportunity at one point to pull the plug and she didn't.
PD: In the film, your wife compares you to the cartoon character Peter Pan. Would Lucy agree with that analogy?
DB: I don't know. That is a good question. Lucy and I had a buddy relationship and I did enjoy palling around with her. We had a great dynamic when she was younger.
PD: How do you compare your relationship with Lucy as a child to your relationship with Lucy as an adult?
DB: As an adult, it is an adult relationship, but every now and then the kid comes out. Just the other day as she was thinking about life after graduation she said, "Dad, if I have to intern for a while can I have my room back?" [Laughs]
PD: So you didn't give her room away or rent it out?
DB: No. [Laughs] We would love it if she came back.
PD: Did Lucy see the film before you showed it to an audience?
DB: Yes. I flew to California because I wanted to see if there was anything she was uncomfortable with.
PD: Now that Lucy is a senior in college how often do you talk?
DB: At least once a week. We either text, Skype, email or use the phone.
PD: Lucy mentions in the film she wants to go into the environmental field. Is that still the case?
DB: Yes, very much so.
PD: As the reviews start to come in, what was Lucy's?
DB: She thinks it is a good film. When she saw it at The Silver Docs Film Festival in Washington, D.C. this past June and saw how the audience responded really well, she was happy.
PD: Any post-production thoughts?
DB: Yes, how quickly time goes. You think it doesn't when you are in the day-to-day routine, but it really does fly by in the blink of an eye.
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.